Please… No More World War 2 Games!

no-more-ww2

So recently there’s been more news about Treyarch already beginning production on “Call of Duty 7”, and it’s currently unclear as to whether they’re still sticking to the WW2 theme (though there have been rumours that they might be moving towards a Cold War period theme). However, Treyarch did make a statement last year that they wanted to “put a close to the war (WW2)”. And if it’s true, thank goodness for that. “Why?” I hear you ask? Why shouldn’t developers develop any more World War 2 (WW2) games? I’ll tell you why:

Beating a Dead Horse

Let’s put it this way: ever heard of the phrase “beating a dead horse”? Well, developing WW2 games in modern times is like a developer digging up the corpse of a horse from the 1940s, leaving it out in the sun to tan for awhile, then painting it in different colours to decorate it, after which they start collecting fees from us gamers to let us beat the dead horse, even though we’ve probably beat it a ton of times before. After awhile (when the game gets old), they wash the dead horse so that it’s back in its original state and they then bury it again. Why? So that the next developer can dig up the same damn horse, decorate it slightly differently, then collect a fee to let people beat that same horse. And so the cycle repeats itself.

What’s the point I’m trying to put across with this weird analogy? There’re a few things:

Same Damn Horse

Every single WW2 game is essentially the same at its core. Sure, different developers decorate it differently, some are better looking than others, but ultimately it’s still the same dead horse they’re reusing over and over again. It’s just utterly tiring. In some ways, it almost makes developers seem lazy, as if they’re just using WW2 as a backdrop so that they don’t have to come up with new stories or gameplay features like weapons and such.

Not only that, but these games completely lose that “element of surprise”. No matter what form of entertainment one is appreciating, that element of surprise always contributes to the consumer’s enjoyment. Be it whether you’re watching a movie or playing a game, it’s always much more enjoyable the first time round. The thing with WW2 games though is that players already know what to expect. The idea of WW2 games conjures up images of bolt action rifles, WW2 era uniforms, clanky weapons, war torn environments, enemies screaming German every other second, etc. Even if there’s a really grand atmosphere, there’s nothing “epic” about it, because you’ve probably already seen the same mechanics in many previous games already. There’s nothing “epic” about having artillery fire rain down on you all of a sudden because it’s happened to you so many times already, and you know you’re going to get out of it somehow anyway so there’s no need to panic. Instead, for example when you’re fighting a sentinel for the first time in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first thought that comes to your mind is “Oh my God, how in the world am I supposed to do this…” and when you actually do accomplish such a mission, the sense of satisfaction is simply overwhelming. With WW2 games however, the fact that you can more or less know what to expect from the game even before you even load it in obviously sucks the fun out of it.

Worst of all, you ALWAYS know who’s going to win at the end…

We’ve seen everything

After that much recycling of the same horse, you’d expect there to be some wear and tear. And trust me, the WW2 genre is already showing its bare bones. There’s simply no meat left in these WW2 games, because there’s little space for creativity. There’re only that many weapons one can choose to put into a game, there are only that many scenarios to use, and hence there are only that many stories to be told. That doesn’t mean these stories aren’t great stories in and of themselves, I mean this is one of the largest wars in human history. However, hearing the same stories over and over again can get tiresome after awhile. There’s simply nothing much left that a developer can add to this genre to keep gamers interested in such games.

Old Age

Another obvious problem is that this dead horse is OLD. I mean the only thing interesting about WW2 from a historical stand point is the overarching story of one of the largest wars in human history. The action itself is actually pretty boring by today’s standards, yet a large part of playing a WW2 game is focused around the action itself. Firing weapons that deal so little damage but yet have to be reloaded like every 5 seconds because they have a ridiculously small ammo clip simply isn’t fun at all. I could go on about such examples, but I’d think most gamers get my point that running around with guns blazing in the 1940s simply isn’t as fun as doing so in “Modern Warfare” situations or even scenarios staged in the future.

Immortality

The weirdest thing to me though is how this “dead” horse appears to be somewhat immortal.  Some developers are simply reluctant to let go of this genre, while many WW2 franchises just refuse to die out.
(Stats below include expansion packs/limited editions/etc.)

  • The Call of Duty series has had 10 games within 5 years.
  • The Medal of Honor series has had 14 games within 8 years.
  • The Brothers in Arms series has had 6 games within 3 years.
  • The Company of Heroes series has had 3 games within 3 years.

In fact, according to the Wikipedia list of WW2 games, there’ve been easily a few hundred games released since 1984 when the classic top-down WW2 shooter “1942” was released. Isn’t that more than enough already?!

Let The Dead Horse “Die”

There’s no doubt there’ve been great games released under the WW2 genre, but now more than 60 years after the war itself, it’s time we moved on. In fact, it’s odd how developers seem to prefer to keep reusing WW2 as a backdrop to their game even when they don’t need to. For example Company of Heroes was a really good and solid RTS game, but did that have anything at all to do with it being staged in the WW2 era? It could have been just as good, if not better, a game if they thought of and used an equally solid backdrop, and Infinity Ward has proved this point by bringing Call of Duty out of WW2 and into modern times with their own story to tell. If only more developers chose to emulate such games instead of doggedly hanging on to WW2, maybe we can finally let this dead horse “die”.